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Your turn: Readers share their stories of epic typos

Not one but two people had embarrassing stories of “public” being printed – very publicly – without the “l.” Another misspelled “Holocaust” throughout his master’s thesis. Many shared tales of auto-correct gone wrong, or tips on how to (try) to catch mistakes before hitting send.

There were those who sent emails riddled with spelling errors as a kind of empathetic joke. And then there was the guy who shared a profoundly sexist story from another era.

I didn’t even ask readers about their worst-ever typos when I wrote a column about some of mine last week. But, no matter – plenty of people sent them in unsolicited. Here’s a sampling:

Although I am a (recently retired) English teacher and have actually done paid proofreading, I find it very difficult to type accurately on the small (cellphone) keyboard. I make many strange and interesting typos when I tweet; in fact, I sometimes think some people follow me on Twitter just to see what typos I will make.

One time, I got thrown off Twitter for a while because I made a typo when I was asked to verify my email. Another time, I joined a long thread filled with people wishing Obama a happy birthday. Unfortunately, I addressed my wishes to “Osama” instead. (I think autocorrect had a role in that one, though, since the “b” and the “s” are not near each other on keyboards of any size.) I am still waiting for the FBI’s knock on the door.

– Debbie Rothman

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I recently was able to correct my own mistake in our holiday card. I had sent such a communication infrequently over the years when the kids were young, but this was something I was doing for the first time since my son died, so it was a big deal for me. And I did it in the spirit of new celebrations and our growing family, now that two of our sons have married.

I wrote the month of my eldest son’s birthday while meaning to use the month of his and his wife’s wedding anniversary. Several of us worked on the card, and did not see the issue. While I asked the other members of our family for input and edits, in that context, it’s hard to get timely feedback.

Days after submitting the order, my daughter-in-law texted me to see if editing the card was possible. Thankfully, the card was not yet printed and I was able to cancel that one and make a replacement card with the correct month.

– Laurie Gross Schaefer

Deer Judy,
No biggie.
Your kindered sprite,
Davvid Coheh

– David Cohen

Long ago (1966) and far away (Jacksonville, Florida) I was working at Gulf Life Insurance Company. My title was “Supervisor, Group Contracts” but no one reported to me. I was supervising myself.

After a few months I was asked to interview candidates, one of whom would become my assistant. I selected a young girl named Sonja, who was an excellent typist. One could read miles and miles of her output without finding a mistake. I gradually stopped proofreading her work.

One afternoon, the Group Department V.P. received a phone call from our in-house print shop. They wanted to know what kind of pornography we were sending them to print. It seems that Sonja had retyped some boilerplate language that we usually cut-and-paste. Instead of typing “… send notice and proof of claim to its Home Office …” she typed “… two tits Home Office…”

I did not show this error to Sonja. I fixed it myself and sent the document back to the print shop. I thought that would be the end of this story, but my own boss, the head of Group Underwriting, started calling me “Two Tits.” He’d say things like “Two Tits, how soon can you have that contract ready for Florida Power and Light?” or “Two Tits, did you see the new dental coverage that MassMutual is selling?”

After several days of this, I went to the downtown public library and looked for an appropriate painting to borrow. I couldn’t find one with two tits, so I borrowed a copy of a painting by Henri Matisse that was wrongly labeled “The Blue Nude” even though it was somewhat abstract and only had one tit. [The real Blue Nude has two.]

After everyone left the office, I took down the nondescript landscape that was on the wall of my boss’ office and hung the painting in its place. The cleaning woman saw me do this and warned me that I might get fired.

The next day, my boss received a lot of “important” visitors who came by to see his new painting. Of course he knew that I was the one who switched the paintings, but I did not get fired. And he did stop calling me “Two Tits.”

– Israel Cohen

My masters (master’s?) degree article at Columbia was about the 47th Street diamond district. Lots of Holocaust survivors there.

I misspelled Holocaust throughout. (I was an activist and Jewish professional for 10 years before grad school; you’d think I’d know.)

Fortunately I was able to retype those pages and sneak them in before anyone noticed.

– Neil Reisner

Who hasn’t heard the many jokes of three clergymen entering a bar?! And so— One night, a priest, minister and rabbit enter a bar. The bartender turns to the rabbit and asks, “How did you get into this joke?” The rabbit replies, “AUTO-CORRECT!”

There have been many times when I have embarrassingly missed auto-correct “corrections.” You are not alone!

– Rabbi Doniel Z. Kramer

I was working on a manual for statewide dissemination in California, under a contract with the Department of Education. The header of this 100+-page manual was supposed to be “Superintendent of Public Instruction,” but instead, it was printed as “Superintendent of Pubic Instruction.”

Yup, that’s right. I thought my career was over. Here I am, 30 years later, still missing the occasional typo, but never for the word “public.”

– Elissa Einhorn

I’m a retired journalist — most of my papers folded, from the Buffalo Courier-Express to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The favorite error I made was when I worked for the New Bedford Standard-Times.

I had written a column in which I referred to the late Sam Levenson, the humorist.

Several months after I wrote the article, my phone in the newsroom rang: “Hi, this is the late Sam Levenson. You probably thought I was dead because I haven’t been on TV lately.”

It turned out his clipping service — remember those? — found my article. He thought it was a hoot and a holler, and sent me a couple of his books, autographed to the “undertaker.”

– Don Glickstein

As the former director of a Jewish agency, I lost countless nights of sleep agonizing over just how it was possible to send out mailings with glaring typos even after several – even many – people had proofread them over and over!

One story. We had an older woman who worked for us in her retirement as a volunteer. She was a force of nature, and even though she had no authority over any of us, given her age and experience and position in the community and the fact the staff was the age of her children or grandchildren(!), she became the self-appointed editor and critic of all of our written materials.

She was often merciless in her criticism and typos made her especially nuts.

She was in charge of a major fundraiser we were doing in which then-Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem was our guest of honor. Well, she sent the invitation out having misspelled his name (Kolleck)!

We were all so horrified, and worried she would give herself a heart attack when she found out, that we called her son, a rabbi in the community, to come to the office and break the news. In the end, she laughed about it and was amused that we all went to so much trouble to protect her.

– Adam Kessler

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misstated the relative of Laurie Gross Schaefer’s who had died. It was her son, not her husband._


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